E-Update for February 27, 2023
The information covered below is from February 10, 2023 to February 23, 2023.
- On February 16, President Biden signed an Executive Order, titled “Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” which builds on a previous Executive Order, charging the federal government with advancing equity and addressing systemic racism in our nation’s policies and programs.
- On February 13, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT), held a town hall event at the U.S. Capitol titled, “Respecting our Teachers: A Town Hall on the Teacher Pay Crisis in America.” During the town hall, Chairman Sanders committed to introducing legislation soon to support paying public school teachers a minimum of at least $60,000 a year.
- On February 13, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced that it is seeking comments, recommendations and suggestions for improving guidance around how colleges and universities outsource management of their online programs to unaffiliated, outside, and typically for-profit companies – known as Online Program Managers (OPMs).
U.S. Supreme Court:
Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments on student loan cases on February 28: On February 28, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will hear oral arguments challenging the Biden Administration’s student loan forgiveness plan. The student loan forgiveness plan – which would cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loans for Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 for non-Pell Grant recipients – has remained on hold leading up to consideration of two cases by the Supreme Court. The first case was brought by six Republican-led states – Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina – which sought to block the debt relief program claiming that it was not Congressionally-authorized and would, among other impacts, negatively affect state tax revenue. The second lawsuit stems from a separate case in which the Job Creators Network filed a lawsuit on behalf of two student loan borrowers who claimed to be ineligible for loan forgiveness. In that case, Federal Judge Mark Pittman of the Northern District of Texas previously ruled that the student loan forgiveness program was an “an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’s legislative power and must be vacated.” The Court could issue decisions for the cases during the June 2023 term.
President Biden signs Executive Order further advancing racial equity efforts across the federal government: On February 16, President Biden signed an Executive Order on racial equity to affirm the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to “deliver equity and build an America in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.” The Executive Order, titled “Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” builds on a previous Executive Order that President Biden signed on his first day of office, which charged the federal government with advancing equity – including in communities that have long been underserved – and addressing systemic racism in our nation’s policies and programs. Among other elements, the Executive Order does the following:
- Launches a new annual process to strengthen racial equity and support for underserved communities by directing agencies to produce an annual Equity Action Plan that will assess and include actions to address the barriers underserved communities may face in accessing and benefitting from the agency’s policies, programs, and activities.
- Empowers Federal equity leaders by strengthening requirements for agencies to build and resource Agency Equity Teams and designate senior leaders accountable for implementing the President’s equity mandate. Additionally, it fosters greater collaboration and accountability, and streamlines agencies’ reporting of progress and planning in order to advance equity in support of all those who face overlapping discrimination and bias.
- Strengthens community partnerships and engagement by requiring agencies to improve the quality, frequency, and accessibility of their community engagement, and to consult with impacted communities as each agency develops its annual Equity Action Plan, funding opportunities, budget proposals, and regulations.
- Promotes data equity and transparency by directing the Interagency Working Group on Equitable Data, institutionalized at the National Science and Technology Council, to facilitate better collection, analysis, and use of demographic data to advance equity, and to regularly report on progress to the White House and the American public.
A fact sheet on the Executive Order is here.
U.S. Department of Education:
USED seeking comments on potential new rules for outsourcing of online programs at colleges and universities: On February 13, USED announced that the Department is seeking comments, recommendations and suggestions for improving guidance around how colleges and universities outsource management of their online programs to unaffiliated, outside, and typically for-profit companies – known as Online Program Managers (OPMs). According to USED’s press release, “The Higher Education Act prohibits institutions of higher education from providing a commission or bonuses to individuals or entities based on securing enrollment or financial aid. This prohibition is known as the ban on incentive compensation. In 2011, the Department issued guidance related to the ban, which created an exception for third parties if they provide a bundled set of services, which can include recruitment.” Concerns have been raised, primarily by Congressional Democrats and consumer advocacy groups, about the lack of oversight and the large and growing number of programs managed by third-party entities. USED Undersecretary of Education James Kvaal noted that the Department plans to “undertake a careful, fair, and thorough review of the rules around how contractors recruit students for online programs.” USED plans two listening sessions on March 8 and 9 on the issue and will accept public comment through March 16.
USED seeking comments on First Amendment and free inquiry related grant conditions put in place under the Trump Administration: On February 22, USED announced that it is seeking input on how regulations adding conditions to Department grants have affected or are reasonably expected to affect decisions surrounding First Amendment and free speech-related litigation in federal and state court and institutional policies on freedom of speech. Under the Trump Administration, regulations were finalized making it a condition for public institutions of higher education (IHEs) receiving Department grants to comply with the First Amendment and private institutions receiving Department grants to follow their stated institutional policies on freedom of speech, including academic freedom. USED is seeking comments to inform its review of current regulations and its implementation of applicable grant programs. Comments will be accepted until March 24, 2023. Relatedly, USED announced on February 22, that it is rescinding sections of the free inquiry regulation prohibiting public IHEs from denying to any religious student organization any right, benefit, or privilege that is otherwise afforded to other student organizations, as a condition of receiving direct grants and state-administered formula grants. The Department stated it, “proposes to rescind the regulations because they are not necessary to protect the First Amendment right to free speech and free exercise of religion; have created confusion among institutions; and prescribe an unduly burdensome role for the Department to investigate allegations regarding IHEs’ treatment of religious student organizations.”
USED’s Office for Civil Rights issues new resources to support equal opportunity in athletic programs through Title IX, as House Republicans promote Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023: On February 17, USED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released three new resources to help students, parents, coaches, athletic directors, and school officials evaluate whether a school is meeting its legal duty to provide equal athletic opportunity regardless of sex. The Department asserts that the resources are consistent with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which is enforced by OCR and prohibits discrimination based on sex in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance. The first resource provides an overview and examples of situations that could raise Title IX concerns, and the following resources are specialized to provide information about athletic programs in K-12 schools and institutions of higher education. More information on the resources can be found on OCR’s website here. In contrast, House Republicans recently released, H.R. 734, the “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023,” which would require that athletes compete in sports in accordance with their biological sex. The bill includes language clarifying that institutions which “allow a person whose sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designated for women or girls” would violate Title IX’s prohibition against sex discrimination.
USED Secretary Miguel Cardona visits Oregon to share Department’s agenda on multilingual learning: On February 23, USED Secretary Cardona and Congresswoman Andrea Salinas (D-OR) traveled to Woodburn, Oregon, to share the Department’s agenda about cultivating multilingual learners. Secretary Cardona and Congresswoman Salinas visited Valor Middle School to learn first-hand from educators, students, and parents about multilingual and multicultural education programs at the school. They also participated in a roundtable discussion with parents to discuss the importance of multilingual accessibility. The visit adds to the Secretary’s “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” address in January, where he shared multilingual education as a priority for the Department in 2023.
USED launches family engagement learning series: On February 10, USED announced a partnership with the Carnegie Corporation of New York and Overdeck Family Foundation to launch the Family Engagement Learning Series. The Learning Series will begin on February 28 and is intended to help education leaders and practitioners implement evidence-based family engagement strategies and research, as well as lift up bright spots in the field. USED Secretary Cardona shared his support for the Learning Series, stating, “We cannot raise the bar for our students’ academic recovery and achievement without consistent and meaningful engagement with the parents and families who know them best. This new learning series is about equipping educators, school and district leaders, and community partners with the most promising models for deepening relationships with parents and students, and highlighting how districts can use the American Rescue Plan’s historic $130 billion investment in education in support of these efforts.” The first session will focus on family engagement strategies that can support math and literacy, and subsequent sessions over the next six months will cover the following topics: attendance and student engagement; student and school safety; student mental health and well-being; kindergarten readiness; and college readiness. More information on the Learning Series is here.
USED announces $188 million in grants to increase school-based mental health services and strengthen the pipeline of mental health professionals: On February 16, USED announced over $188 million in grants in 30 states to increase access to school-based mental health services and to strengthen the pipeline of mental health professionals in high-need districts. The grants were awarded through funding included in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), which was enacted in June 2022. Over the next five years, BSCA will provide $1 billion through the School-Based Mental Health Services (SBMH) Grant program and the Mental Health Service Professional (MHSP) Demonstration Grant program. This round of grants will provide the resources to hire approximately 5,400 school-based mental health professionals and train an estimated 5,500 more to build a diverse pipeline of mental health providers in schools. The funding program was announced in tandem with a town hall hosted by USED Secretary Cardona and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy to discuss the crisis surrounding youth mental health. At John R. Lewis High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, the officials spoke with students about resources to address mental health. The announcement also follows the release of new data from the CDC showing that nearly three in five teenage girls felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, double the rate of boys and the highest level reported in the last decade.
USED announces $18 million in awards to increase diversity of teachers: On February 15, USED announced $18 million in grants to 12 institutions of higher education to increase high-quality teacher preparation programs for teachers of color, strengthen the diversity of the teacher pipeline, and address teacher shortages. The funds were awarded through the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program, which supports comprehensive, high-quality teacher preparation programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs), and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). This marks the first round of grant funding under this program, which received an initial appropriation in fiscal year (FY) 2022 and was first authorized in 2008. The grants were announced as USED Secretary Cardona visited Jackson State University to learn more about their efforts to strengthen and diversify their teacher pipeline program. Secretary Cardona shared, “Today, more than half of our learners nationwide are students of color, and yet fewer than 1 in 5 educators come from communities of color. I’m incredibly proud to announce the first-ever Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program grants, which will help HBCUs, TCCUs, and MSIs recruit and prepare a new generation of diverse and talented individuals into the teaching profession.” While in Mississippi, Secretary Cardona also toured an elementary school to highlight out-of-school programs.
Senate HELP Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders hosts town hall with teachers and teachers union leadership to highlight the need to address low teacher salaries: On February 13, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT), held a town hall event at the U.S. Capitol titled, “Respecting our Teachers: A Town Hall on the Teacher Pay Crisis in America.” Participants included Senator Edward Markey (D-MA), National Education Association (NEA) President Becky Pringle, American Federation of Teacher (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, and four public school teachers. In addition, several teachers participated remotely.
In his opening remarks, Chairman Sanders spoke about the impact of the pandemic on students and teachers and that educators were “…the most likely to report higher levels of anxiety, stress, and burnout.” He went on to say, as a result, “some 300,000 public school educators and staff left their jobs during the pandemic and we now have a shortage of some 200,000 public school teachers throughout the country.” Chairman Sanders also highlighted low salaries as another contributing factor to why so many public school teachers are leaving the profession. He noted that the starting salary in most school districts is less than $40,000 a year and that in 36 states, the average public school teacher with a family of four qualifies for food stamps, public housing, and other government benefits. In concluding his remarks, Chairman Sanders noted that, “Teachers have one of the toughest and most demanding jobs, and we must stand up and support them.” The Chairman also committed to introducing legislation soon to support paying public school teachers a minimum of at least $60,000 a year. Separately, in the House, Representatives Frederica Wilson (D-FL) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) recently reintroduced the American Teacher Act, which would provide teacher salary incentive grants to support state efforts to increase teacher salaries to a minimum of $60,000 per year.
In her remarks, NEA President Pringle argued that there is, “A shortage of professional pay, basic dignity, and respect for the people that have dedicated their lives to America’s students.” Public school teachers from Vermont, New York, West Virginia, and Virginia all gave opening statements. The discussion focused on the mental health needs of teachers and students, the lack of resources – in addition to pay – that teachers face, and the experience of teachers in other countries where pay is higher.
Senate HELP Committee advances two nominees for USED over objection of Ranking Member Cassidy due to concerns with Biden Administration’s plans for student loan forgiveness: On February 15, the Senate HELP Committee approved the nomination of Glenna Wright-Gallo to be USED’s Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services by a bipartisan vote of 13-8 and LaWanda Toney to be USED’s Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach by a bipartisan vote of 12-9. Despite both nominees receiving bipartisan support, Senate HELP Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) urged his colleagues to oppose both nominees saying, “Until this administration ends its unilateral actions on student loans, I urge my colleagues to oppose any nomination from [USED].” Wright-Gallo is a former special education teacher, member of the Utah State Board of Education, and assistant state superintendent in Washington State, while Toney is the former communications director at the National Parent Teacher Association. Both nominees received bipartisan support from the Senate HELP Committee in the last Congress; however, the full Senate did not consider their nominations. This meant that each was required to be nominated again by the President and newly considered by the Committee in the 118th Congress. Both Wright-Gallo and Toney’s nominations must now, once again, be considered by the full Senate.
Senate Agriculture Committee holds hearing to discuss Farm Bill, including funding for SNAP: On February 16, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held a hearing titled, “Farm Bill 2023: Nutrition Programs.” The hearing featured testimony from two U.S. Department of Agriculture staff members: Stacy Dean, the Deputy Under Secretary for the Department’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services division, and Cindy Long, an Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service program.
During the hearing, Senate Democrats discussed the value of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in feeding over 40 million Americans who are facing food insecurity and expressed the need for federal spending on SNAP to increase, as the current benefits are too low to prevent food insecurity in today’s economy. In her opening statement, Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said, “Every dollar spent in SNAP increases the GDP by one dollar and fifty cents, making SNAP the fastest way to stimulate the economy during an economic downturn, particularly in our rural communities.” Additionally, Chairwoman Stabenow highlighted in her opening statement the expansion of the SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) program as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. The SNAP E&T program helps SNAP participants gain skills and find work, as well as reduces barriers to work by providing support services, such as transportation and childcare. Chairwoman Stabenow noted that since 2018 the SNAP E&T program has expanded to include new public private partnership options and supported evidence-based, comprehensive case management. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also highlighted the importance of the SNAP E&T program in Minnesota, including the collaborative work being done with the state and local government to help participants overcome barriers to employment.
While Republicans spoke of the value of the SNAP program to prevent food insecurity, they expressed their concern with the 2023 Farm Bill’s provisions to increase federal spending on SNAP programs and a lack of monitoring to ensure individuals do not abuse the SNAP program. Republicans also spoke to what they assert are inconsistent increases in SNAP spending in the context of the pandemic and rising inflation. Specifically, Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) highlighted that while food costs have increased by 20 percent since January 2020, SNAP benefits have increased by 50 percent. Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR), in his opening statement, argued that rising employment numbers should indicate less of a need for spending on SNAP, and stated, “There are more than 11 million jobs open across the economy, equivalent to nearly two job openings for every unemployed person. Approximately five million of those job openings are in 25 states and territories that are not enforcing work requirements.” Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) shared similar sentiments, saying that the focus of the SNAP program should be on “families who truly need assistance” and not able-bodied adults without dependents, who make up 10 percent of SNAP recipients.
Of note, the hearing also came one day after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its latest Budget and Economic Outlook for the next ten years, which included new cost estimates for the SNAP program. The updated cost estimates showed that the SNAP program could increase by $93 billion from fiscal 2023 through 2033 to a total of $1.2 trillion for the 10-year period. Ranking Member Boozman particularly emphasized that CBO estimates show that “we will spend more on SNAP from…2023 to 2033 than we have in the previous two decades combined.” He went on to highlight that, “Since the last Farm Bill, the cost of the largest of these programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP has grown by more than 94% from $65 billion annually in 2018.” While recognizing that the pandemic and inflation have driven some cost increases, he put the blame for the largest driver of increased costs on a “decision by the leadership of the Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services division to abandon 40 years of precedent and increase SNAP benefits by 21% to record high levels that are unsustainable.”
Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on protecting children online: On February 14, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled, “Protecting Our Children Online.” The hearing examined the challenge of ensuring online child safety and privacy, with Democratic and Republican Committee Members expressing bipartisan recognition for the need to address the issue. The hearing featured testimony from Kristin Bride, Survivor Parent and Social Media Reform Advocate; Michelle C. DeLaune, President and CEO, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children; Mitch J. Prinstein, PhD, ABPP, Chief Science Officer, American Psychological Association; Emma Lembke, Founder, Log Off Movement; John Pizzuro, CEO, Raven; and Josh Golin, Executive Director, Fairplay. The witnesses testified to the risks, threats, and harms that children face in the online world. During the hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin (D-IL) announced that he was releasing a discussion draft of the STOP CSAM [child sexual abuse material] Act. Chairman Durbin said that he has been working on the comprehensive bill to close gaps in the law and crack down on the proliferation of child sex abuse material online. Specifically, the bill would take a three-pronged approach that supports victims, promotes accountability and transparency by the tech industry, and ensures that offenders will receive sentences that reflect the severity of their crimes. On February 13, Chairman Durbin also reintroduced the Clean Slate for Kids Online Act, which would give every American an enforceable legal right to demand that internet companies delete all personal information that was collected from or about the person when he or she was a child under age 13. Calling attention during the hearing to bipartisan efforts to address this issue, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lindsey Graham (R-SC) remarked, “There is no regulatory agency in America with any meaningful power to control this. There are more bills being introduced in this area than any subject matter that I know of. All of them are bipartisan.” He went on to say, “I am working with Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts. We have pretty divergent political opinions, except here. We have to do something and the sooner the better. We are going to approach this from consumer protection. We are going to look at a digital regulatory commission that would have power to shut these sites down if they are not doing ‘best business practices’ to protect children from sexual exploitation online.”
Senate HELP Committee Chairman Sanders and Ranking Member Cassidy announce Subcommittee rosters for the 118th Congress: On February 16, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) announced subcommittee rosters for the 118th Congress, including the Subcommittee on Children and Families. The Children and Families Subcommittee – which has jurisdiction over a wide range of issues, including early childhood education and other issues involving children, youth, and families – will once again be Chaired by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). Democratic members of the Subcommittee include Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Tina Smith (D-MN) – all of which were members of the Subcommittee in the prior Congress. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) will newly serve as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee. Subcommittee Ranking Member Tuberville takes on the role from Senator Cassidy who led the Subcommittee for Republicans in the prior Congress. Republican members of the Subcommittee include Senators Cassidy, Paul (R-KY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). Senator Mullin is new to the Subcommittee for the 118th Congress. While Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) is still a member of the Senate HELP Committee, he will no longer serve on the Subcommittee this Congress. Additionally, the Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee will be chaired by Senator John Hickenlooper (R-CO) and Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) will serve as Ranking Member.
Senate Appropriations Committee announces new leadership for the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee in the 118th Congress: On February 15, Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) announced subcommittee rosters for the 118th Congress, including for the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) will newly Chair the Subcommittee. Subcommittee Chairwoman Baldwin takes on the role from Senator Murray, who will be focusing on her Chairmanship of the full Appropriations Committee. Democratic members of the Subcommittee include Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) – all of which were members of the Subcommittee in the prior Congress. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) will newly serve as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee replacing former Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) who retired last Congress. Republican members of the Subcommittee include Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jerry Moran (R-KS), John Kennedy (R-LA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Boozman (R-AR), Katie Britt (R-AL), and Marco Rubio (R-FL). Senators Boozman and Britt are new to the Subcommittee for the 118th Congress.
Senate Thune, with Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Cassidy, reintroduces bill to end federal student loan repayment pause: On February 16, Senator John Thune (R-SD), with Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA), reintroduced S. 506, the “Stop Reckless Student Loan Actions Act,” which would end the current student loan pause and prohibit the president from canceling any outstanding federal student loan due to a national emergency. The bill would still allow the president to temporarily suspend repayment for certain low- and middle-income borrowers, as well as military personnel during a time of war or national emergency. The current national student loan pause began during the Trump Administration in March 2020, was extended once by President Trump, and has since been extended six times by the Biden Administration. Announcing the legislation, Ranking Member Cassidy shared, “President Biden is unfairly transferring the burden from those who willingly took on loans to those who did not. There is no support for the man who didn’t go to college but is paying off a work truck or the woman who responsibly paid off her student loans but is struggling with her mortgage.”
Republican Congressional leaders write again in opposition to USED’s proposed changes to the Income-Driven Repayment Program (IDR); Democrats add their support: In January, USED announced proposed changes to the IDR program. The changes include increasing the income limits before a student loan borrower has to make payments and cutting monthly payments in half from 10% to 5% of discretionary income for borrowers incomes above those thresholds. Republicans have expressed opposition to the changes with House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) leading a letter signed by nearly 70 Republican Senators and Representatives in response to the Federal Register notice outlining the changes. In the February 10 letter, the Republicans Members urge USED Secretary Cardona to rescind the proposal, noting that, “This proposed regulation…would turn a safety-net for low-income federal student loan borrowers into an unsustainable transfer of wealth from hardworking taxpayers to college-educated individuals…This proposal ultimately turns the Direct Loan program…into an untargeted grant.” The response follows a February 2 letter to Secretary Cardona from Chairwoman Foxx and Ranking Member Cassidy which requested an extension of the public comment period and noted, “This is a drastic shift in policy which you do not have the legal authority to make.” In contrast, House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) released a separate response on February 10 applauding the Biden Administration’s IDR regulatory proposal. Ranking Member Scott wrote, “The Department’s efforts to streamline the IDR program by making it easier for borrowers to enroll in the [IDR] plan, phasing out older IDR plans, and simplifying the recertification process are smart reforms to the program. By creating quicker pathways to forgiveness and lowering the monthly payments of most borrowers, the proposed rule would make student loan repayment more affordable and manageable for borrowers.”
House Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member Scott and Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamici write in support of Department of Agriculture proposal to expand WIC options: On February 17, House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in support of its proposed expansion to healthier food options for participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The proposed changes would allow for a wider variety of foods to be available to WIC participants, including an increase to the monthly Cash-Value Voucher benefit for fresh fruits and vegetables. Additionally, the updates would help WIC agencies at the state level to better accommodate food packages for participants’ dietary needs and personal and cultural food preferences. Ranking Members Scott and Bonamici wrote, “We appreciate the Department’s actions to ensure appropriate nutrition for those served by the WIC program using a science-based review. These actions are particularly important given that the WIC program is in a unique position to improve the health outcomes of low-income and communities of color that are often disproportionally impacted by food insecurity and diet-related chronic disease.”
Upcoming Events (Congress & Administration):
- On February 28 from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm and March 1 at 9:00 am to 2:00 pm, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) will conduct an open meeting. Among other agenda items, NACIQI will review applications for institutional accreditation and elect a new committee chairperson and vice-chairperson. More information is here.
- On March 2 from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm and March 3 from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm, the National Assessment Governing Board will hold a quarterly meeting. The meeting will include an update on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) activities, a briefing on “Ensuring Fair and Unbiased NAEP Assessments,” and updates on the NAEP Science Assessment Framework, among other activities. The session will also include standing committee meetings, including of the Assessment Development committee, Standards, Design, and Methodology committee, and Reporting and Dissemination committee. More information, including an agenda for the meeting, is here.
- On March 8 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm and March 9 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm, USED will hold virtual listening sessions to receive public comments, recommendations, and suggestions to improve guidance around how some colleges and universities outsource management of their online programs to Online Program Managers (OPMs). More information on the agenda for the sessions and instructions for attending and providing live comments at the virtual listening sessions, as well as instructions for submitting written comments, is here.
- On March 14 at 9:00 am to 5:30 pm, the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders will conduct an open meeting. The commission will meet to discuss full and draft recommendations by the Commission’s six Subcommittees on ways to advance equity, justice, and opportunity for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. The Subcommittees are: Belonging, Inclusion, Anti-Asian Hate, Anti-Discrimination; Data Disaggregation; Language Access; Economic Equity; Health Equity; and Immigration and Citizenship Status. The agenda for the meeting has not yet been released. More information is here.
- On March 23, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L/HHS) will hold a public witness hearing. The deadline to submit requests to testify is Friday, March 3. In addition, written testimony can be submitted, and all testimony will be reviewed by the subcommittee for inclusion in the hearing record. The deadline to submit written testimony is Thursday, March 23. More information and instructions for submitting a request to testify or written testimony for the hearing is here.
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On February 27 at 11:00 am, the Bipartisan Policy Center will hold a discussion with Professor Sigal Ben-Porath regarding his book titled, “Cancel Wars: How Universities Can Foster Free Speech, Promote Inclusion, and Renew Democracy.” More information is here.
- On February 28 at 4:00 pm, Getting Smart will host a town hall titled, “Raise the Bar: Policy Shaping Pathways For All.” The meeting will include a discussion of how recent policies will drive school change through intentionally building and designing pathways. Speakers include Amy Loyd, Assistant Secretary for USED’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education and Julie Lammers, Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Corporate Social Responsibility at American Student Assistance. More information and registration is here.
- On March 2 at 2:00 pm, the National Center for Community Schools will host a webinar titled, “So You Want to Be a Community School?” The webinar will describe the essential components that schools need to be ready to become a community school, informed by the Community Schools Forward framework. Presenters will also explain the role of the community school coordinator and how to leverage a new readiness tool in community school planning. More information and registration is here.
- On March 2 at 3:00 pm, the National Student Support Accelerator and The Center for Education Market Dynamics will host a webinar titled, “Navigating Tutoring Options: Using Features of Quality to Guide Decision Making.” The webinar aims to provide participants with an understanding of the tutoring landscape and how tutoring experts have defined quality, based on the best available research. Presenters include Kathy Bendheim, Managing Director at National Student Support Accelerator, and Mackenzie Flynn, Market Specialist at The Center for Education Market Dynamics. More information and registration is here.
- On March 14 at 2:00 pm, SchoolHouse Connection and Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan will host a webinar titled, “Data to Action: How to Use New Searchable Data Profiles to Improve Practice and Policy for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness.” The webinar will explore recently-released data to educate community members, educators, and policymakers about the prevalence and the impact of child and youth homelessness, and explore whether local school districts may be under-identifying children and youth experiencing homelessness. Additionally, participants will learn how to understand patterns of federal funding and its impact on youth identification for support. More information is here.
Publications (Congress & Administration):
- On February 13, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report titled, “Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary and Trends Report: 2011-2021.” The report found that teen girls and LGBQ+ students have higher rates of poor mental health, as 57 percent of female high school students and 69 percent of LGBTQ+ high school students said they experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in the past year. To address these findings, the report recommends that schools foster an increased sense of connectedness through social and emotional learning programs and increase access to school-based mental, physical, and behavioral health services. The report also showed a significant increase in the percentage of youth who seriously considered suicide, made a suicide plan, and attempted suicide. To address this, authors recommend supporting schools in efforts to reverse these negative trends and to ensure that youth have the support they need to be healthy and thrive.
- On February 17, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a new report titled, “Additional Data Collection Would Help Assess the Performance of a Program Supporting College Students with Disabilities.” The report examines concerns raised with incomplete data collected by USED regarding the disability status of students helped through the Student Support Services (SSS) program. The SSS program is one of eight TRIO grant programs funded to help promote achievement in postsecondary education among disadvantaged students. GAO found that as a result of not collecting data on each SSS participant’s disability status, USED cannot fully evaluate and report on the program’s performance for this population. The report recommended that USED collect complete information on each SSS participant’s disability status, which USED accepted and described plans to collect this data in the future.
- On February 21, the GAO published a new report titled, “New Charter Schools Receiving Grants to Open Grew Faster Than Peers.” GAO reviewed charter schools that received USED’s “Charter Schools Program” grants from 2006 to 2020, which help open or expand charter schools. The analysis found that charter schools that received a grant had higher student enrollment growth compared to similar charter schools that did not receive a grant. Additionally, the report showed that compared to traditional public schools, charter schools enrolled fewer students designated as receiving services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The GAO analysis was requested by the House Appropriations Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee to learn more on trends in grant-recipient charter schools and did not make recommendations to USED.
Publications (Outside Organizations):
- On February 13, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) released a new report titled, “Inclusive, Innovative Assessments for Students with Learning Disabilities.” The report sought to better understand the experiences of students with disabilities who participated in statewide summative assessment programs. The report used surveys and focus groups to incorporate perceptions of these assessments from caregivers, educators, and young people with disabilities, as well as assessment and disability rights experts. The report shares principles that policymakers and assessment developers should consider when creating new assessments and policy recommendations to realize equity within assessment systems for all learners. Some of these policy recommendations include publishing guidance or providing technical assistance to ensure that states and districts provide equitable access to standardized assessments; incentivizing cross-state, district, and test provider collaboration to drive innovation in assessments; and applying Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to assessments of all kinds.
- On February 13, the First Five Years Fund (FFYF) published an analysis of how early childhood issues were discussed in governors’ 2023 State of the State addresses. In analyzing transcripts of the 35 addresses that had been given before February 13, FFYF found that 65 percent of these governors devoted a portion of their remarks to the importance of investing in child care and early learning. This issue was raised by governors from both sides of the aisle, including 40 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Democrats. Additionally, 30 percent of governors representing states that will likely be critical to influencing 2024 White House and Senate outcomes, including Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, South Carolina, Ohio, and Kansas, discussed early childhood issues. Additionally, there was a 14 percent increase in the number of addresses that mentioned child care compared to 2022.
- On February 16, Pen America published a new report titled, “Educational Censorship Continues: The 2023 Legislative Sessions So Far.” The report covered state-level legislation introduced in 2023 thus far that addresses “divisive concepts,” which shows that overall a similar number of bills have been introduced this year compared to 2022. Analyses show that there has been a large increase in bills similar to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, and a slight decrease in “divisive concepts” legislation. The legislation also includes topics ranging from critical race theory to the theory that race is a social construct. Pen America notes that it is too early to tell whether any of these bills will garner enough legislative support to become law, but recommends that advocates of free expression and education should respond.
- In February, the RAND Corporation published a new report titled, “Educator Turnover Has Markedly Increased, but Districts Have Taken Actions to Boost Teacher Ranks.” The report studied whether educator turnover increased nationally at the end of the 2021–2022 school year, and if districts continue to experience staff shortages during the 2022–2023 school year. Key findings indicated that teacher turnover increased 4 percentage points above pre-pandemic levels to 10 percent at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, and principal turnover reached 16 percent. While teacher turnover was highest (12 to 14 percent) in urban districts, high-poverty districts, and districts serving predominantly students of color, principal turnover was highest (21 to 23 percent) in high-poverty districts and in rural districts. Though staffing shortages were less acute in 2022-2023 than in 2021-2022, districts still experienced shortages for substitute teachers, special education teachers, and bus drivers. To address these shortages, RAND authors recommended that education systems leaders give principals the same kind of policy attention as teachers and stay focused on quality when investing in teacher pipeline programs.
- In February, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) published a new report titled, “Road to Recovery: How States are Using Federal Relief Funding to Scale High-Impact Tutoring.” The report outlines the trends and promising practices from states that invested American Rescue Plan funding into high-impact tutoring programs. Authors indicate that successful programs have directed their attention toward the fidelity of program, implementation, and leveraging community partners to support programs. The report also highlights states that are weaving together state and federal funding to make tutoring programs sustainable after federal relief funding expires.
Introduced in the House of Representatives:
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to include service as a veteran family caregiver as a public service job for purposes of the public service loan forgiveness program, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA)
To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to include service as a veteran family caregiver as a public service job for purposes of the public service loan forgiveness program, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Gerald Connolly (R-VA)
A bill to prohibit the use of Federal funds to enforce the rule submitted by the Department of Health and Human Services relating to COVID-19 vaccine and mask requirements for Head Start programs.
Sponsor: Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI)
A bill to establish a program that enables college-bound residents of outlying areas of the United States to have greater choices among institutions of higher education, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI)
A bill to direct the Secretary of Education to make grants for the purpose of increasing access to data literacy education, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI)
To reauthorize and improve a grant program to assist institutions of higher education in establishing, maintaining, improving, and operating Student Veteran Centers.
Sponsor: Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL)
To amend the General Education Provisions Act to ensure that a student is not required to submit to a survey, analysis, or evaluation that reveals personal information about such student or their family without prior written consent.
Sponsor: Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL)
A bill to require disclosure of the total amount of interest that would be paid over the life of a loan for certain Federal student loans.
Sponsor: Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-IA)
A bill to address foreign threats to higher education in the United States.
Sponsor: Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA)
A bill to amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to allow schools that participate in the school lunch program under such Act to serve whole milk.
Sponsor: Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA)
A resolution providing amounts for the expenses of the Committee on Education and the Workforce in the One Hundred Eighteenth Congress.
Sponsor: Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
Introduced in the Senate:
A bill to support the establishment of an apprenticeship college consortium.
Sponsor: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide student loan deferment for victims of terrorist attacks.
Sponsor: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
A bill to authorize a Federal report and longitudinal study regarding the effects of social media on users under age 18.
Sponsor: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO)
A bill to provide financial assistance to schools impacted by radioactive contaminants, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO)
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to increase and provide an inflation adjustment for the limitation on distributions from qualified tuition programs that may be used for elementary and secondary tuition.
Sponsor: Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA)
A bill to modify the age requirement for the Student Incentive Payment Program of the State maritime academies.
Sponsor: Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI)
A bill to establish a competitive grant program to support out-of-school-time youth workforce readiness programs, providing employability skills development, career exploration, employment readiness training, mentoring, work-based learning, and workforce opportunities for eligible youth.
Sponsor: Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN)
A bill to require disclosure of the total amount of interest that would be paid over the life of a loan for certain Federal student loans.
Sponsor: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA)
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for comprehensive student achievement information.
Sponsor: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT)
A bill to reauthorize and improve a grant program to assist institutions of higher education in establishing, maintaining, improving, and operating Student Veteran Centers.
Sponsor: Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV)
A bill to amend the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003 to strike the Secretary’s unilateral authority during a national emergency, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
A bill to authorize appropriations for occupational education and training programs of the Bureau of Prisons.
Sponsor: Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Senate Resolution 61
A resolution designating March 3, 2023, as “National Speech and Debate Education Day”.
Sponsor: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Senate Resolution 67
A resolution supporting the goals and ideals of “Career and Technical Education Month”.
Sponsor: Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)